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Last Updated: 11/20/2017
 

 Article of Interest - Bullying in Schools
Kids get help conquering bullies
Metro Detroit schools develop programs to prevent abuse and boost self-esteem.
by Julio Ochoa, Detroit News, August 20, 2001
For more articles like this visit http://www.bridges4kids.org

 
Like other kids her age, Jamie Artman was bullied in middle school for no reason. One day, a group of boys picked her out of a crowd because she was wearing a necklace with a star pendant.


"They started calling me a witch, and they wouldn't leave me alone," said Artman, 14. "They just kept on pushing and pushing until they thought I would crack."


But she didn't crack because she believed in herself and was part of a program called Students Taking A New Direction (STAND), which helps kids build self-esteem and confidence to conquer bullying.


Starting this fall, other schools across Metro Detroit may start programs like STAND as they add anti-bullying guidelines to their codes for student conduct. Administrators at districts such as Clintondale in Macomb County and Berkley and Avondale in Oakland County will develop programs they hope will prevent physical, emotional and verbal abuse and create safe and fear-free environments in their classrooms.


The state, through its new policy on bullying, is asking all Michigan school districts to develop their own plans to deal with the problem. The state Board of Education drafted its policy after increased incidents of school violence around the state and nation. Many of these incidents were the result of bullying, said Michael Warren, the board's secretary.


"It is an awesome decision because it will enable more kids to get more confidence in themselves and more self-esteem," Artman said. "Then, they will stick up for themselves and realize that they don't have to let bullying happen."


Nearly one in seven school children is a bully or victim, and the problem affects more than 5 million students across the United States, according to a 1999 survey by the National Association of School Psychologists.
Bullying or teasing is usually involved when school violence erupts, experts say.


In March, when a ninth-grader at Santana High School near San Diego shot and killed two students and wounded 13 others, classmates said he was often picked on. A similar story was heard after two Columbine students in Colorado gunned down 12 classmates and a teacher in 1999.


Closer to home, Tempest Smith, a 12-year-old student at Lincoln Park Middle School, hung herself in February after enduring constant ridicule from her classmates because of her belief in Wicca, a pagan religion.


That suicide is one more example of violence that could have been avoided if programs that prevent bullying were in place, educators say.

Making changes
Districts such as Royal Oak, Fraser and Berkley say they will enact changes in their student codes of conduct when their policy committees meet in the fall.


"It is a good start," said Justin Fawcett, 17, a recent graduate of Andover High School, who often saw bullies pick on and make fun of his classmates. "If they have a good program that is dedicated to stopping the intimidation, then it might help. But they have to cover all the angles."


Most districts have ways to punish harassment, but no programs to prevent it.


For example, the Clintondale Community Schools student handbook says that students who physically or verbally assault classmates could be suspended up to 180 days.


But punishing the behavior is not enough to solve the problem, experts say.


"If you deal with just the victims or just the bullies, you change nothing," said Dr. Sherryll Kraizer, executive director of the Coalition for Children and author of the "Take a Stand" bully-prevention program. "That has been the traditional approach, but we know more now."


Kraizer travels to schools across the nation training students, teachers and administrators how to make bullying unacceptable. Her approach doesn't focus on the bully or the victim, but on the children in the middle who have the best social skills and can change the social climate.


"These kids use peer pressure to create a community of intolerance to bullying," Kraizer said. "This program increases self esteem and confidence in everybody, and the bullying behavior is reduced."

Concepts in action
At Dearborn Public Schools, members of STAND have seen these concepts in action.


Artman said she has a friend who was picked on so much that he was contemplating suicide before he joined STAND.


"I noticed that through STAND and his friends talking to him, he got stronger," Artman said. "If we saw him in the halls getting teased, we would stand up for him -- and they would stop. By the end of the semester, he was more alive and having more fun with middle school."


The group just completed a summer program in which 72 children from grades five to eight went on field trips and worked through a curriculum based on teaching acceptance, self worth, camaraderie and diversity.
"We don't want kids to just tolerate each other. We want them to embrace their differences," said Christine Rosbury, a group leader in the summer STAND program. "Often, kids that get bullied get low self-esteem because they are different. We are trying to teach them that difference is good."


In the fall, the students will spread out into the district's five middle schools and become ambassadors for the program, raising awareness about bullying and teasing.


Starting in September, STAND will begin a district-wide program called The Golden Rule, which asks students to treat their neighbors the way they would want to be treated.


At the high school level, STAND plans to introduce a curriculum called Don't Laugh at Me. Through activities and role-playing, students learn to deal with physical and mental intimidation.

District fights bullying
Farmington Public Schools is also attacking bullies head on.


The district brings in leaders from city government, law enforcement, emergency response, mental health, businesses, courts and the media to create a climate where academic success is combined with a sense of belonging and connectedness to other students.


"We feel that no curriculum in the world is going to aid a child in learning if that child doesn't feel safe and connected in the community," said Estralee Michaelson, director of the Safe Schools program and student services at the district.


In each of its elementary schools, the district has a full-time employee who supports and counsels students, helping them understand the pain and humiliation that can be caused by bullying.


Problems that arise can be solved through a conflict-resolution program that involves students. During a typical session, two students playing the role of mediators will sit down with the students in conflict and find a way for them to agree to stop fighting.


The kids will listen to each others' side of the story and address why they feel the way they do. The problem is resolved with rules and consequences, such as suspension and parent intervention.


Conflict resolution is also woven into lessons on English and history. Teachers use examples of the Holocaust, slavery and war to show how extreme forms of bullying are wrong.


Administrators and teachers say they are starting to see improvements in student attitudes, Michaelson said.
"One of the themes we're starting to permeate is hug more, love daily because you got to get that passion out there. We believe passion empowers change."

How to deal with bullies
If your child is a victim of a bully, here are ways to deal with the problem:


* Teach your children at a young age to stay away from others who exhibit bullying behavior.


* Teach your children to be assertive but not aggressive or violent when approached by a bully. Tell them to walk away and get help from an adult in dangerous situations.


* Teach your children never to use a gun or other weapon to defend themselves from bullies.


* Pay attention to symptoms that your child may be a victim of bullying, including withdrawal, sudden lack of interest in school, a drop in grades and signs of physical abuse.


* If your child is bullied at school, tell school officials immediately. Keep written records of the names, dates, times and circumstances of the incidents and give a copy to the principal.


Source: National Parent-Teacher Association

About the policy
The Michigan State Board of Education is asking all school districts to develop a strategy to prevent bullying for their school-safety plans. The board recommends that anti-bullying programs should:


* Supervise students.


* Encourage students to be involved in the programs by asking and listening to them.


* Educate teachers and other staff members on the nature and seriousness of bullying on a student's physical, emotional and academic well-being.


* Teach teachers and other staff members how to effectively intervene when bullying occurs.


* Provide individualized interventions with bullies and victims.


* Advocate meaningful communication between teachers and parents.

 

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